Gazing Ahead: Most Upside For 2011-12

NORMAN, Okla. -- Just a couple days ago, Sooners Illustrated released the 2010-11 rankings for OU's major sports teams, and now it's time to see which two of those has the best chance for improvement in the upcoming season.

2. Football--It's not like the guys on the gridiron had a bad showing last year, but the key here is that they have an obvious opportunity to take this thing to even greater heights. Why? They return a lot of veterans, including stars Ryan Broyles (WR) and Travis Lewis (LB). The Sooners won the Fiesta Bowl last season, nothing short of a phenomenal run considering the adversity they faced along the way, but the wealth of talent and experience suggests they could make a run for even more than that this time around. The Sooners will be a preseason pick by many to not only win the Big 12 Conference again but also the National Championship. And it's reasonable. For justification purposes on why the football team makes the top two, consider that the baseball team won 41 games and loses several key pieces next year, the women's basketball squad loses several crucial players as well and the softball team made the Women's College World Series, so there's not much room for improvement.

1. Men's basketball--When coming off a 14-18 season, firing the head coach and hiring another who has a proven history of quickly turning around programs, it's easy to understand why this group has the best chance of putting together a massive turnaround job in 2011-12. New head coach Lon Kruger has taken four schools to the NCAA Tournament, including Kansas State, Florida, Illinois and UNLV. He guided Florida to the Final Four. The Sooners lose guard Cade Davis but get the talents of forward Romero Osby, who had to sit out last year per NCAA transfer rules. It won't be the most talented team, but it will be a competitive one under Kruger. Even if the Sooners win four more games next year--and there's reason to believe that is a realistic possibility--that would move them from four games under .500 to four over, a huge improvement. Win a couple more games that that, and you're talking about a team going from a miserable losing season to one that could possibly make the NIT or NCAA Tournament in just one year.

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